HawgBeat – Musselman: “This is a great win as I was a part of it”
For those who have continued to question Eric Musselman throughout the 2022-23 season, maybe it’s time to stop doing it.
With Saturday’s 72-71 win over No. 1 Kansas, Musselman led the Arkansas Razorbacks to a three-game Sweet Sixteen straight, the first time this has happened with the Hogs since 1994-96.
As time ticked by, Ricky Council 4 sank the clutch freestyle down the stretch, it was only a matter of time until the celebration began. Musselman and his team erupted with joy and ran to the Razorback faithful, where he stood on a table, pulled off his jersey and showed pure excitement after leading his team to the Sweet Sixteen again.
“I’ve been training for a long time, and this is as big a win as I’ve ever been,” Musselman said. “Again, because of Kansas’ history, because of some of its veteran players who were part of the championship team last year. Not a lot of people thought we were going to win our first-round game.”
After struggling down the stretch with three losses to finish the regular season, many people have given up on Musselman and the Razorbacks. Social media was filled with heated posts and doubts about whether or not he had created a winning list.
Throughout the season, Musselman frequently told reporters that each game had its own identity and that his team was young and continuing to learn and grow. Although she is still learning and growing, she is progressing at just the right time while continuing to learn.
“I kept telling the players internally and I kept telling the staff that we are a team that keeps getting better,” Musselman said. “It doesn’t happen this time of year, but because of all the circumstances that have happened, we’re still evolving, we’re still adding offensive plays, we’re still adding defensive coverage.”
Indoor drive was an issue early in the year and the extra effort appeared to be an issue after some losses, including after a 97-84 loss to Vanderbilt on January 3. 14, a match Musselman said he was disappointed with the competitiveness after.
Just over two months later, he praised his team’s readiness to get the shots ahead of a win over Kansas on Saturday.
“These guys didn’t get any rest time between our last game and I didn’t want to shoot today,” Musselman said. “Not many teams filmed today, they gave up practice time. So I told them, guys, let’s do a tour and a movie and I can show you what we need, and Ricky and DeVoe stood up and said no, coach, we want to go to the gym.” And I said I was worried about the legs and they said, No. It wasn’t my decision. It was theirs.”
The two players who stood up and said no just happened was the key to winning. Davis had an outstanding performance with 25 points – 21 of them in the second half – and eight rebounds. Council scored 21 points, grabbed six rebounds and four assists to go along with his five free throws in the final 23 seconds of the game.
“I feel like we all did something to help us win and I’m glad we did,” Davies said. “Ricky hit great free throws, and we had Nick come in and play really good defense at the end of the game. Everyone contributed, Coach Moss even did the right technique and things like that to help us. Even the coaches and the team contributed in some way to help us win.”
Things together the way they did after the way the season played out brought a lot of emotion, especially from Davis during a post-game interview on CBS.
Similar to Davis’ words, Musselman mentioned how tough the season has been, and advancing to another Sweet Sixteen is a great reward.
“This season has been full of challenges and ups and downs as far as I’ve ever been,” Musselman said. “To be rewarded for these guys for sticking it out and being able to go to Las Vegas and play with only 16 teams still standing, it’s really hard to be in this tournament. It’s really hard to win a game in this tournament. It’s really hard to beat the defending champions, the seeded One. We did it, proud of us.”
Arkansas’ next challenge will be facing the winner of 5-ranked St. Mary’s and 4-ranked UConn inside the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on Thursday.
Davis said, “I know it feels good and I know players who haven’t been a part of something like this, I know we feel like we’re on top of the world and we want to keep getting better.” . “Like Coach Moss said, we’re not done yet and I think we can keep getting better as the season goes on.”